This month new recycling regulations came into force requiring the separation of dry recycling – paper, glass, plastics and metals – as part of the revised EU Waste Framework Directive. The aim of the legislation is wholly positive, focused on achieving high quality recyclate.
However, many would argue that the legislation doesn’t go far enough in driving real change to recycling practices. The regulations require separate collection where ‘necessary to promote high quality recycling and is technically, environmentally and economically practicable (TEEP)’. So, while commingling of dry mixed waste should be reducing, councils are still introducing such collections, or maintaining their existing systems, as it would not be practicable to change. Yes, important in today’s climate of austerity but not supportive of the long term goal.
It could be the only change that the legislation makes is to the level of paperwork required through requiring a TEEP assessment to be undertaken to justify decisions taken.
The Environment Agency will be responsible for policing the regulations and expects collectors to present an audit trail of their decision making process to demonstrate the approach they have chosen and that they have taken reasonable measures to comply with the legislation.
However, many in the industry are frustrated by the new legislation for differing reasons; lack of guidance from Defra, additional red tape, TEEP being a loop hole or going against investment made in post collection separation systems. Only time will tell if the legislation will deliver any real change, but looking at comments being made so far, there is not an overwhelming response from industry.